Going Viral

04 Mar 2011

Matt Smith’s lightening tour through the fundamentals of what makes a video go viral – a summary from his keynote presentation, MusicTank, How To Spawn A Viral Hit, 03.03.11

1. Strong Creative:

  • focus on doing what you do being the best…sweat the content to make it as good as it can possibly be.
  • make it fun to watch and easy to share – think about building in cues that work: stop motion, slo mo, tempo…even cute kittens (yes really!)…

2. Influencer Endorsement:

  • Seed the video to influencers – bloggers, twitterati etc – introduce the artist/band and the video, then ‘walk away’…playing to their strengths by leaving it to them and trusting their judgement is far preferable to having a great video ignored because you’ve been too ‘in yer face’.  If you want to kill a video’s viral chances at birth, pester, cajole and otherwise irritate said influencer…So having asked them to post/comment/tweet & poke, leavethem to it!!

3. Massive Reach Driven By Social Distribution:

  • Get it out there through your own community, though the usual social channels (e.g. flickr, tumblr, facebook, twiter, reddit, blog posts, stumbleupon etc) – a snowball effect should ensure that increasing numbers are seeing and sharing your content.

4. Rules of Engagement:

  • Know Your Audience – become part of their conversation – if you know how people consume, you can tailor your approach.  Know their humour, their likes and dislikes…get to know them.
  • Respect Your Audience – make your content the best it possibly can be – there’s lots of competition.
  • Think Editorially – forget demographics, focus groups, reflecting brand values and the rest – the prescribed, calculated approach doesn’t work.
  • Make It Easy To Engage With And Share – use the most popular and available/open technology that’s easy for all to access and use; demanding/intense/obscure content  generally doesn’t succeed in going viral, concentrate on fun, frivolity…glib, daft, fun, silly and quirky works well.
  • Pick Three And Make It Good – funny | touching | useful | endeavour | informative | cool | entertaining | cute | sexy | beautiful | shocking | joyful | challenging | gross | clever | original
    The internet loves it when you do something a bit pointless. Internet communities also like to be challenged, especially if it means getting together to work something out
  • Competition –  you’re not just competing with peers, you’re competing with everyone else’s random content.

5. Need Inspiration?

    • Cee Lo Green – “F**k You”…before the song and live action promo was released, the label released a cheap flash promo which just had the lyrics appear.  Really lo budget  It was uploaded onto boingboing, cool hunter sites favoured by early adopters who then started raving about it, fuelling demand for the release.

    • OK Go – It’s said that you can’t deliberately create a viral…Might not be the best music, but their career’s been made on the back of their videos, each of which has enjoyed 5 million + views.  Their hallmarks are stop/go motion, Rube Goldberg machines, cute animals (back to picking 3 from the above list and making it good).

    • Dave Carroll United Breaks Guitars..a hilarious example of engaging content based on the artist’s unfortunate real-life incident which won 10 million views on YouTube and brought about a United Airlines pr disaster to-boot.  Needless to say, he hasn’t looked back…appearances on chat shows (incl. Oprah) followed, successfully ratcheting up his career…


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